Switch off the TV: these gripping page-turners will have you reading into the small hours.
The gentler sex? Not when it comes to crime fiction. From the very British Agatha Christie to the new wave of Scandinavian authors, there is a whole world of thrilling, exciting and often uncompromising whodunnits on the the bookshelves. So where to start? Here are seven of our favourites, old and new. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie.
This may not be one of Christie’s better-known books, but the third Hercule Poirot novel, published in 1926, is as clever and intriguing as any of her more famous ones. Naturally it’s set in a very English village, in which the wealthy Roger Ackroyd is murdered in the study of his villa. Poirot, retired and conveniently living in the village, is tasked with investigating the case, and discovers a disturbing truth and a clever criminal ploy. The final twist is completely unexpected. Ripley Under Ground by Patricia Highsmith
Published in 1970, this superb book by Highsmith is the second in her Tom Ripley series, and a perfect example of what she has brought to the crime novel: the ability to investigate the human soul like few others. Ripley is a charmer with a beautiful house, a beautiful wife, and an immaculate facade. But he conceals a double life, explored in this psychological thriller involving an art gallery, faked paintings and murder. Remember to breathe between pages!What Is Mine by Anne Holt
The trend for Scandinavian crime fiction shows no sign of abating, and this mesmerising book from the Norwegian writer Anne Holt shows why. The story of the disappearance of nine-year-old Emelie, who doesn’t come home from school one day, this feels a very timely book. The main protagonists, investigators Yngvar Stubø and Johanne Vik, are also a far cry from the misanthropes of many crime novels, and the psychological depth, surprising plot and sky-high tension make this unmissable. The Ice Princess by Camilla Läckeberg
Another Nordic novel, by the Swedish author Camilla Läckeberg, The Ice Princess is as dark and chilling as you’d hope. In midwinter, in a small Swedish sea resort, the body of a young woman is found in a tub full of icy water. Suicide or homicide? Erica, a writer and childhood friend of the victim, investigates her mysterious death with a friend of hers in the police. Wrap up warm while you’re reading this one!Lasting Damage by Sophie Hannah
Nothing is what it seems in this book. Hannah, a rising star of British crime fiction, included all the essential ingredients in her sixth psychological thriller: obsession, deceit, mystery and passion. As well as being a real page-turner it will make you really think about family ties and relationships. The protagonist, Connie, clicks on the virtual tour on a property website, and sees a nightmarish, bloody murder. What happens next will have you gripped.A Mind To Murder by P.D. James
Britain’s crowned queen of crime, the late P.D. James’s hero, Inspector Adam Dalgliesh, is one of the most influential recurring characters in crime fiction, his complex character - poetical as well as analytical - helps him solve murders such as this, in which a murdered woman is found in the basement of a psychiatric clinic. Cat lovers will appreciate this one too! And once you’ve read one, you’ll devour every book in the series. My Sister, My Love by Joyce Carol Oates
Perhaps not what you’re expecting from a whodunnit, but this is indeed a crime novel – that goes far beyond the usual boundaries of a thriller. Merciless and unsettling, this extraordinary novel explores small-town America and more, and takes its inspiration from the true story of the unresolved murder of a six-year-old girl. Told through the eyes of the girl’s brother, this story will enrage, move and terrify you – and you won’t be able to put it down.